BACKGROUND COLOUR

Getting back to normal, but scars remain

With the improvement in the handling of the pandemic came improvements in measures of mental health. But while Australia avoided the worst of infections and death, there were still large negative impacts on mental health and wellbeing over 2020.

14 %

In April, nearly half (49.4 per cent) of Australians said they never met socially.

35 %

By May it was 26.5 per cent, and in November it was just 6.8 per cent.

7 %

Those who say they felt lonely fell to the lowest figure (35%) in November.

%

Young adults continued to suffer higher levels of psychological distress, although it reduced to 14% by November.

Life Satisfaction, October 2019 to November 2020
Overall, how satisfied are you with life as a whole these days with 0 meaning 'not at all satisfied' and 10 meaning 'completely satisfied'?
Sources & Methodology
Variable description Average response, by month
Variable time span October 2020 - November 2020
Published by ANU Poll
Publisher Link https://csrm.cass.anu.edu.au/research/publications/tracking-outcomes-during-covid-19-pandemic-november-2020-counting-costs-covid
Data Source doi:10.26193/VYPO6E
CSV Data
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There have been very large negative impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of the Australian population.

November saw some significant improvements in mental health outcomes. There was a large and statistically significant reduction in the Kessler 6 (K6) measure of psychological distress which fell from 11.82 in October to 11.43 in November.

This was still above the levels in February 2017, the last time the question was asked prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The levels of psychological distress remained much higher for young adults aged 18 to 24. Those levels increased far more than for any other age groups between August and October. Between October and November though, the size of the decline (from 15.5 to 14) was much larger than for other age groups.

For Victorians, who bore the brunt of the second wave of the pandemic, the rates of psychological distress continued to move closer to the rest of the population. In October the measure for Victorians was still considerably higher than for the rest of Australia (12.67 to 11.52). By November, the two were much closer with the rate for Victorians of 11.73 with 11.32 for the rest of the population.

As measures of psychological distress have improved, life satisfaction is improving as well. It did so in a substantial way from October to November with the measure up from 6.66 to 6.99. Australians are as satisfied with life largely as they were in October 2019 and a little bit more than during the bushfire crisis in January 2020.

Despite the change, it is still worth noting the reduction in life satisfaction during most of 2020 was substantial. The estimated average loss of life satisfaction of 0.256 equates to an average of $423 a week per person, or $334 billion dollars across all Australian adults from the start of March to the end of November.

Per cent of Australians who said They Never Met Socially with Friends, Relatives or Work Colleagues
Thinking about your life now since the spread of COVID-19 in Australia, how often do you meet socially with friends, relatives, or work colleagues?
Sources & Methodology
Variable description % of respondents who answered 'Never', by month
Variable time span Feb 2020 - November 2020
Published by ANU Poll
Publisher Link https://csrm.cass.anu.edu.au/research/publications/tracking-outcomes-during-covid-19-pandemic-november-2020-counting-costs-covid
Data Source doi:10.26193/VYPO6E
CSV Data
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The push for social distancing saw a sharp rise between February and April of people who didn’t meet socially with friends or relatives.

The push for social distancing at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia saw a sharp rise between February and April of people who didn’t meet socially with friends or relatives. That has since been declining and in November it was at the lowest levels observed over the period.

In April, nearly half (49.4 per cent) of Australians said they never met socially. By May it was 26.5 per cent, and in November it was just 6.8 per cent. Despite the dramatic fall, the level of social isolation is still above the pre-pandemic level of 2 per cent.

The number of people who said they met socially weekly or more frequently also hadn’t returned to pre-covid levels by November. It was 58.6 per cent in February, dropped to 18.8 in April, and bounced back to 46.1 by November.

Levels of loneliness fell to the lowest value observed over the COVID period, declining between August and November from 40.5 per cent to 35.2 per cent.